The Permissions Letter and Attachments

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO SUPPORT PUBLIC LANDS AND REJECT THE CURRENT DESIGNATED DIRECTOR OF THE BLM 






Last week I was pleasantly surprised to be listening to the MEATEATER podcast Episode 096, Permissions! that discussed obtaining access to private property for the purpose of hunting and the crew discussed a letter I shared with them some months back.

Since then, some of the comments on MeatEaterTV and Steven Rinella Instagram posts relating to this episode have asked for the letter to be made available.  I am not sure if they can do this so I am putting it up there for everyone with some additional notes for how I use the letter and why it is formatted the way it is.

THE LETTER

I am putting up several files for you. (the Bold Dark Red Text are Links to the files)

File #1: WORD Document that you can open and edit to suit your needs.

File #2: PDF document of that same word document above.  I have put this up so that if there are any compatibility issues between the version of Microsoft Word I am using and the version you are using, the PDF will display the layout properly.  I am using Microsoft Word 2010.  If you don't have Microsoft Word, you can open this PDF and grab the text from it to use in whatever word processing program you prefer or write it out by hand, just have clear handwriting.

File #3: PDF of the letter with note numbers so you can see how to edit it and why I wrote the letter the way I did.  The notes for the letter are shown below.

LETTER NOTES (the downloadable Release and Permissions forms at the bottom)

I have sent a version of this letter to cities, property management companies and individuals.  Most of the letters go to properties that are not developed and do not have a door that can be “knocked” on so this serves as my first impression.  It needs to be thorough but not appear as though it was prepared by a lawyer. These notes hopefully help to explain why I wrote it this way and will help you modify it to be your own.

Note #1
I have made this note version of the letter so you can be sure to change or add/subtract things from the letter that personalizes the letter for your own needs or for the person/organization that is receiving the letter.  The biggest items to change have been changed to RED so it is easy to see.  When you change it, change it back to black or to “automatic” in WORD (which is black).
In the  PDF letter with Notes I have added note indications and they are placed on the letter so you can read the proper note for the section of letter that is being explained.

Note #2
The reason I included an overhead map on the letter was for three reasons, #1, they may own multiple pieces of property, #2, they know you are doing your homework and #3, the graphic will grab their attention.
Right-Clicking an image gives these and other editing options

I usually get my overhead shot from an Online County GIS mapping site but an overhead from Google Maps or Google Earth will work too. Just be sure the property border is shown. When I get to a overhead view or map I want to use, I either do a screen shot by simultaneously pressing the [Ctrl][Shift][Print Screen] buttons on the computer keyboard at the same time (this copies an image of the screen into the computer’s temporary memory) and then pasting it into the Word Document or I use “Snip It”, which is a program that is already installed on most Windows Operating Systems.  These images can be clipped and scaled using the Microsoft Word Image tools available by right-clicking the image.  See the figure to the right.

Note #3
Typically this is all that is on page one of the letter but it achieves a simple task that is that it identifies the property and states your purpose.  I think the simplicity and graphic it includes leads the reader onto the next page.

Note #4
In North Carolina we have the option of painting a property border as I show in the graphic to indicate that a property is private and that the only people on the property will have written permission slips from the owner.  Your local area may be different but marking a property with private property signs could be an alternative to what I have.  Either way you go, I think a graphic showing what you will do is beneficial and keeps the reader’s attention.
I also offer to remove trash that I can hand carry.  I again show a graphic of this task. I do not want to offer to remove those old appliances or couches straight off but for a good hunting property with a couple appliances, it may be worth the effort if an appliance is accessible and you have a truck and a buddy with a strong back.

Note #5
I like to arrange photos in different locations on the page.  I utilize the tools mentioned in Note #2.  This is a personal preference of mine but by doing this it is my opinion is that it draws the eye to the photo and creates curiosity about what is being said concerning the photo more so than if it is just text or an image plopped anywhere on the page.  It also shortens the distance the eye travels to read a sentence.  This will help the reader stay focused on the content by making it easier for the eye to track a line of text from one end to the other.  Remember,  as technology improves, our attention spans shorten and people are becoming less likely to read big long paragraphs and sentences.  Making it easier on their eyes will improves your chances.

Note #6
I then identify myself and include a photo.  This puts a face to your name, and depending on how you describe yourself, helps them determine if you are someone they would trust to be on their property.  I probably would not put a photo of you with a big buck or a gun or bow in your hand; to some people this may come off the wrong way and help them pre-judge you.  A pleasant non-professional photo is probably best to give you a “real-person” feel.

Note # 7
On the property referenced in this letter, shooting a firearm would be legal but on others I have attempted to gain access to, even though they have been over 100 acres, they have been inside the city limits and depending on the local ordinance (city code), discharging a firearm may be illegal.  It is valuable to know the local law for discharging a firearm so it can be addressed.  You may even want to check to see if a local ordinance has been passed about limiting or prohibiting hunting inside city limits.  I bring this up because I want the reader to know I am already thinking about safety.
Be sure to research the local county, town or city that the property is zoned in.  Most municipalities will have their ordinance available online and some offer search tools so you can quickly find key words "hunting", "discharge" or "firearm".

Note #8
I address injury because no matter what we do, accidents happen.  I personally wear a harness when in a tree even when on a permanent stand, I prefer the hassle of using it rather than a permanent limp my neighbor has from falling out of a tree stand and breaking his pelvis. I have seen ankles break from slipping on ice walking down a hill or bad level 3 sprains from stepping in a hole.  It is good to let the property owner know you or anyone with you won’t sue them so I include this RELEASE, HOLD HARMLESS & INDEMNIFICATION form provided courtesy of the NRA.  See Note #13.

Note #9
NC Wildlife provides a permission form that should be carried with you and presented to a wildlife officer if you are approached and questioned about your right to be on the property.  If your wildlife authority does not do this, I have made one for you to have signed by the property owner.  It just shows the owner you are responsible.  See Note #14.

Note #10
I wrap up the letter by summing up the letter’s purpose, thanking them for reading the entire letter while prompting them for a response.  Notice that I list what I am doing for them before I recap that I am requesting something from them.

Note #11
I give the letter reader basic forms of contact; address, phone, email.
I would not want to give them any social media contact information because you may open yourself up to micro analyzing before you get contacted based on information you or your family and friends connected to you post.  You never know who really is on the other end of the letter so political statements, sports team support or even a photo of a frosty drink could swing your permission to access question into the “no” category.  Plus, if you are posting hunting photos of bucks you have killed or of you and your buddies out hunting, you may appear as though you really don’t need more hunting ground.

Note #12
I include a self-addressed stamped envelope folded up in the original letter.  Just to make responding to me or sending me permission access just a little easier.  If the owner is nearby, I may even offer to come pick it up so they can get a face to face meeting.

INCLUDED ITEMS IN THE LETTER

Note #13
RELEASE, HOLD HARMLESS & INDEMNIFICATION form from the NRA
Change the form to have the appropriate information where I have the RED text and then change it back to black as I detailed above in Note #1.  Then make two copies and pre-sign your side (Participant) on both.  I put sticky notes on the two print outs of this form.  One sticky says “Property Owner’s Copy” and the other copy says “Please return in the self-addressed stamped envelope” so they can include one to be sent back to you and keep one for their records.

Note #14
Unless you are in North Carolina or your state provides a permission form, I have made one for you.
PERMISSION FORM
I would prefill some of the blanks.  If you don’t have good handwriting, have someone else do it.  Put your name, the number of guests you would like with you, your requested actions and dates requested.
Don’t push the number of guests.  I only put 1 guest thinking that they would view more than that to much on an initial request and it also shows you intend on keeping the number to just you and one person.  This may ease the thought of you bringing a bunch of people on the property.
For action, keep it simple, “scouting and hunting” is simple enough.  You may even want to say “cleaning” to improve your chances.
I also include a second blank one if they want to change the dates or number of guests.
For the date, I only ask for one year so if I send the letter on January 2, 2018 I request from that date to January 2, 2019.  Consider the dates of your hunting season when requesting this, you don't want your permission to run out in the middle of a hunting season.
This is North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commision’s form
NC Wildlife Permission Form

Note #15
GET OPENED
The original envelope I sent is also hand addressed.  A hand addressed envelope is estimated to be three times as likely to be opened verses a typed envelope.  By using this method, you are already making the letter personal and increasing you chances of a response before it is even opened.


Best Wishes!
I hope these documents and notes help out and I am delighted to be the Creepy yet Diligent fellow hunter.

Comments

  1. Didn't get through the whole podcast yet, but what is your timing of sending the letter? Spring? Do you follow up via phone or in person? What has been your success rate?

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    1. Timeframe:
      I attempt to gain access after hunting season has ended, this way if it takes time to get everything straightened out, I still have plenty of time to scout and perform some of my tasks before I hunt.
      So, in NC, our season just ended, so I may start seeking new spots now. I just scored an additional 25 acres nearby to an area I have been turned down on so this time frame is perfect for scouting, cleaning, marking and hunting next season.

      Follow up:
      Because I have always got a response, I haven't had to determine a good follow up time. If you have done your homework and know you are contacting the correct person, no response my mean "no". Usually these letter go out to people I don't know a direct telephone or are at physical locations I can't follow up on or it is WAY to far. One property I attempted was owned by a guy that was over 1,000 miles away who ended up calling me.

      Success Rate:
      Success rate is going to vary wildly. I expect zero percent and so when I gain access it feel like 100%. Over time, I would expect 5% or less but this is just for those places that you can't find some other means of making contact. It shouldn't be your single approach. Just a tool in your arsenal of gaining Permissions!.

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  2. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

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    1. It was my pleasure to put it together. So far it has been seen over 30,000 times!
      Hopefully the people that use it, edit it and make it their own or use it as an example to create a completely new permissions letter specific to their situation.

      Now is also a time to put together a thank you letter for the property owners that gave you access to their land. I may share one of mine on this blog soon.

      The owner on one property I was successful on this past season received steaks, a roast and some grind from the deer that was taken, along with some canned bone broth. At this offering, it is a good time to discuss next year permissions.

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  3. Wow, this is awesome. I had started transcribing what I could from the podcast but this is far beyond what I could have some up with. Thanks for sharing your hard work!

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    1. Also, where you at in NC? I am in Durham, I might owe you a beer or two if this works!

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  4. Thanks so much for sharing! Hope this works out in my neck of the woods. I'll definitely be sending a few out! :)

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    1. I added another bit on "retaining permissions" today and a few things I do.

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  5. Thank you for taking the time to share this info. I now hunt in Catawba and Burke County areas of NC but was looking for a better way to seek permission in the Charlotte and Huntersville area. This letter looks amazing !!! Again thanks for sharing.
    Daniel Miller

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    1. Do some aerial homework and some driving. It is my pleasure to share. Make the letter your own and use it if you can't find another method to establish a connection to the land owner. It is always safe to assume farms and open pastures are heavily pressured by hunters for permissions so I like to look for undeveloped properties that are tucked away and might be hidden deer sanctuaries no one has thought to look at. No one method will work so be prepared for rejection but keep trying.

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  6. So what would be the benefit to the landowner to paint purple on their trees? Would most landowners be okay with that?

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    1. In North Carolina this is a legal way to mark private land per the NC Land Protection Act.
      http://www.ncwildlife.org/Hunting/Laws-Safety/Landowner-Protection-Act
      This is just an offering used as a suggestion that should be changed according to the laws of your area. This type of marking could be omitted from the offering or changed to no trespassing signs, etc.
      On one property, I was contacted by the land manager and informed they couldn't let anyone on the property because of insurance reasons and then they had the property marked with the purple paint I described to them. Telling me, as Steve said, "Buzz off".

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  7. Is permission required to hunt unposted property in the NC counties where you are requesting it? If not, I feel this letter is a selfish, self-serving attempt to limit the opportunities of others in the area, who may not have the time, money, education level (i.e. linguistics skills) or general interpersonal skills to pursue gaining and retaining hunting permission on this level. Specifically, your unsolicited offer to post the landowner’s property is what I take issue with. If permission is not required to hunt unposted property, which I understand it is not in many parts of NC, than what is the purpose of this offer other than to protect it for yourself while discouraging other hunters? I have seen an explosion of posted signs in my rural county in my home state (where one does not need permission to hunt unposted property) over the past few years, and have often wondered what is driving it. Now I am wondering if someone isn’t doing the same thing you are.

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    1. Most of the time permission is required to hunt on private property that has not been posted and I am not going to enter a private property without the consent of the owner. There are a number of states that, unless posted, a hunter may access a property but along with that are a number of varying laws that may change from county to county and state to state. I think there are a few counties in NC that permit this but not in my location. Navigating those laws can be confusing so clarification from the local or regional wildlife officer is recommended.

      As for me offering to post property, well, I am certainly not opposed others hunting the property if the owner wishes to grant them permission, it is their land. In NC, the type of posting I am suggesting is an indicator that tells our wildlife officers that hunting may occur on that private property and therefore, they may be more inclined to inspect it.

      And, as far as locking out someone without time, money, education, writing skills, etc. well, that was the entire reason I shared my method and even provided downloadable documents for this, to make it easier for people that may not have that abilities to assemble such documents. And I certainly am not out gathering up permissions to hunt land just for myself, I can barely hunt all of the properties I have access on, and by all, I don't have many, just handful of quality property and a few other smaller plots with game activity that are more challenging due to other private property borders , surroundings and terrain . At this point, trying to gain access to property for me is a low priority. My advice is if someone does gain access to a promising property is to focus on how to hunt it effectively rather than trying to access more property because they just feel like they can walk in, plop themselves in a permanent tree stand and watch bucks just come rolling in.

      We also live in a time where "pay to play" hunting is becoming more prevalent. I personally know a world class bow hunter and writer for a well known hunting magazine who lost permissions to hunt numerous private properties due to the growing "hunt club" land lease environment. This can be another reason you see those signs everywhere. Of course, you can't blame these land owners, they are paying the taxes, mortgages, etc on these properties, why not support that with leasing the land for hunting clubs when it would otherwise just sit there.

      Permissions to hunt have been a challenge for many people, especially on the east coast or in states like Texas where public game lands are almost non-existent. Homework, be it by foot, by mouth or by computer or a combination of them all is required in this day and age to gain legal access to property. I hope you have or find quality land to hunt and if you need some help with some technical aspect or wording of a "cold call" letter, please don't hesitate to reach out.

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  8. I'm curious what your success rate is? Any is good of course, but how many of these letters would you say you've sent over the years and what's the response? Do landowners usually respond back with the letter, or do they call? How often do they want to meet up? I've taken this approach but with a very different letter. I'm looking forward to responses.

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    1. I am very selective where I send letters so I have gotten responses from all the ones I send out. I am sending out another coupe for turkey hunting this Spring so my 100 percentile response rate may change. That 100% doesn't mean I gain access but that at least the owner or representative reaches out to me. If you are selective and do your homework, you should expect a response from a good percentage of your letters.

      I think if you were to send out 200 letters just to test the water, those 200 would not be tailored to each property and therefore the owner may feel that the letter is more of a mass mailing rather than a singled out focused letter and just be pitched in the trash.

      The ones I have gained access to I keep in as good standing as possible to retain the permission to hunt (communication, assistance, gratitude, etc). This keeps me from having to continuously search for new property to hunt on.

      I would say I have a 10% success rate to gain access but expect zero. That number is high but since I am very selective and tailor each letter to each property owner I don't send out that many. I didn't try to gain access to any additional properties this year because I am trying to focus on what I have and not what I don't (and it has been productive with meat in the freezer).

      I have received responses with phone calls and email. I haven't ever just had the permission letter granted and sent back to me but I still include that option.

      As for meeting in person, Oh yeah! They definitely want to meet you at first so put on your most respectful attitude, treat them with respect and be humble. For continued meetings, I try to keep them updated on when I am in the property, when I am successful and what I see. No communication with them is a recipe to loose your permission to be on the property.

      As for the letter, there is no perfect way to write it. The one provided here is my own version that I modify for each property, you may feel your letter is more personal to you and can just take ideas from mine or others to make custom letters for each property you are looking at.

      Good luck!

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  9. Very good information that you have shared here, thanks a lot for this god idea. i recently started this website about hunting topic, check please here

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